Last time I talked about a couple strategies to free yourself from the terror of screwing up. Mostly by creating fresh drafts where you're free to go completely bonkers while you've still got that original draft as a safe backup.
Maybe it seems like a waste of time to do all that extra writing only to throw some or all of it away? But consider this rather nuanced counterpoint: no, it’s not.
In fact, that's Rule Three: Anything you do to find the best path for your story is not a waste of time or effort.
Dumping new drafts? Cutting out scenes entirely? Re-writing a whole chapter? Those aren’t wastes of time! Those are what you needed to do to find the best way to tell your story. I’ve talked to a lot of writers who hate cutting content, even a little of it, because it makes them feel like they wasted hours, or days, even weeks of work. Here’s the thing about that. If the only reason you won’t cut a scene (a page, a line, a chapter, whatever) is that it feels like a waste of your time, then keeping it is a waste of your readers’ time.
And wasting the reader’s time is the number one absolute most worst thing you can do as a writer. So don't.
Corollary: wasting their money is fine. Money comes and goes. Our entire economic system is a pyramid scheme anyway, so it hardly matters. But wasting time? No one’s getting that back.
I think the resistance to cutting material comes from being overly concerned with daily word counts (or weekly or monthly). You're always hearing from Real Professional Writers who write 400 or 500 or 1,000 words everyday. You want to be a Real Professional Writer too, so it seems logical to emulate this behavior.
Word counts are a goal of writing, they are not the point of writing. If your word count becomes the point of your writing instead of the reader’s experience of the story you're writing, then you're confusing good metrics for good work. Surely we've all witnessed and/or been victim of the bizarre outcomes demanded by distant corporate algorithmic tracking by this point to have figured out there's no correlation between good metrics and good work.
Cut the line, cut the conversation, cut the scene, cut the chapter, cut the whole fucking act if you have to. There is nothing so precious or brilliant about anything you will ever write that it cannot be cut. And if you think you’ve written something so amazing it would be a crime to cut it, then it’s probably in there for you and not for the reader. Cut it.
And on the off chance it really is that good? Make that new draft like we talked about so you can cut it with impunity to see where it takes you!
Any time I come across a big change that might be risky to implement, or that makes me worried about the results, or that forces me to change or eliminate material I really loved, I just create a new draft, bump the letter up by one, and go nuts with it.
Most of my scripts hit Draft C or D by the end but I’ve had a couple go as far as G. And to date I’ve never reverted back to an earlier draft. I've gone back to the original to copy/paste a line or something here or there, but I've never had to back to work from the original. That probably means it’s safe for me to stop this practice of creating new drafts entirely and just move full steam ahead with my big, wild changes right there in the original files.
But just knowing there’s a fall back position is the safety net, and safety blanket if I'm honest, that lets me loosen up and be more receptive to alternatives in the first place.
Sometimes it tanks the number of pages I write in a week. But every time it's improved the pages that get written.